Birch Contemporary

Andy Patton: The In Vain Coloured Oriole and Other Paintings

These are the latest in a series of text paintings I began more than a decade ago, when I first became immersed in classical Chinese calligraphy—which is both a visual and a literary art at the same time. My paintings are read from top to bottom (like classical Chinese) and from left to right (like English). They were shown recently in Xi’an and Beijing as part of the sprawling Transformation of Canadian Landscape Art exhibition and in Michael Davidson’s The Soul in September at 26 in Toronto.

The new paintings deal with a variety of subjects: the ecological crisis, the death of a friend, the pathos of art in its reach and incapacities, our separation from the past and painting’s relation to its future. Temple Ruins Park, for example, is a record of my visit to the Small Wild Goose Pagoda in Xi’an, built to house the newly translated Buddhist sutras. The In Vain Coloured Oriole is a meditation on reason and art and what escapes them.

The texts in the paintings all are rooted in one book of poems, Introduction to the Introduction to Wang Wei, written collaboratively by Roo Borson, Kim Maltman and myself as Pain Not Bread. I have taken the poems apart, re-arranged and stitched them back together, so that phrases from different poems recombine to make new texts, which form the basis of the paintings, allowing them to speak of new contents, different concerns, feelings, perceptions.

With thanks for the support of the Ontario Arts Council and the Toronto Arts Council.